3 Easy Cocktail / Mocktail Recipes to Learn for New Year’s

drink

New Year’s Eve is coming up soon and if you want to throw a party, it’s nice to have some fun and festive drink recipes in your mixologist’s arsenal. Drinks for this time of year are usually full of warm flavors and aromatic spices, things which make you feel cozy and at home in the chilly weather. These drinks don’t have to be made with alcohol for those of you who would rather not partake – they are all excellent virgin cocktails/ mocktails as well!

With these easy recipes you’ll be able to host a great party or get-together without stressing over intense cocktail recipes. Keep things simple and enjoy ringing in the new year!

Spiced Cider Lemonade Cocktail from A Beautiful Mess

1 part lemonade

1 part apple cider

1.5 ounces whiskey

A pinch of cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and serve. The ladies from A Beautiful Mess also garnish the drink with cinnamon sticks and orange slices for an excellent visual effect!

 

Champagne and Sorbet cocktails from Paper and Stitch

1-2 scoops raspberry or blood orange sorbet

Champagne (or substitute with sparkling juice)

Scoop sorbet into glasses (try making her countdown glasses!) and pour champagne or sparkling juice over top for a frothy and fruity cocktail. Simple and sweet.

 

Moscow Mule Mocktail from the Merrythought

 

½ cup ginger beer

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

3 tbsp club soda

Mix these ingredients in a copper mug about ¾ of the way full with crushed ice. Stir and garnish with a lime wedge. If you want to make a traditional cocktail version of this, replace some of the club soda with vodka. Enjoy!

Tea Tonic

tea

I’ve certainly written a lot about tea and coffee here on the Gainesville Apartment Guide Blog. I’ve grown up in a family of caffeine consumers and (to be completely honest) total tea snobs. Memories of my parents’ house frequently include a kettle whistling in the distance due to my dad’s hot tea habit. More recently during my trip to Taiwan, I had the privilege of trying many types of tea locally grown in the area I visited – some types I’d never had before, including Taiwan’s most expensive tea ($300 a pound!). So the fascination and exploration continues every year as I try new teas and savor old favorites.

I’ve learned if you’re into tea, there really is one for any occasion or mood. To me, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy a hot drink like tea. Tea of course is delicious when iced, but in my humble opinion the best way to consume it is hot. I’m also a bit of a tea purist. It’s only lately that I’ve been allowing a few herbal kinds to slip into my routine amongst the more regimented list. But with an abundance of kinds, there is a tea for any mood. Here are some thoughts on when and how to take your tea-

When I’m still convincing myself to get ready in the morning – breakfast teas are strong blends of black, typically Indian, teas. They also usually have some citrus oils added in which gives them a slightly sweet smell. The high octane boost from a caffeine-rich breakfast blend, like Scottish breakfast tea (try Taylor’s of Harrogate for an economical but very good blend) can easily perk you up on a dreary morning. Breakfast blends are good with a tiny bit of sugar in them, but I typically take them black. They also pair especially well with sweet foods for breakfast, which is always a plus!

When I want to stop and think – I love jasmine teas because of the amazing aroma. If you’re a fan of green tea and haven’t tried jasmine, it’s worth a try. You can also find black jasmine teas, but they are slightly less popular. Jasmine tea is delicate and stimulating, making it a great tea for relaxing or meditating. I like to enjoy jasmine tea in the afternoon or evening. I don’t recommend putting any sugar in these unless you’re making it iced (and even then not so much).

When I want tea at night but not to be up all night – This breaks the mold a little bit, because it’s not actually tea. Rooibos is made from the bark of a bush which originates in South Africa. It tastes remarkably tea-like but contains no caffeine at all, making it a great late-night substitute for tea drinkers who also value their sleep. I like the chai flavored variety of rooibos, which is extra tasty with milk in it.

 

Creating a Book Nook in Your Apartment

book-nook

Are you a bibliophile? I most definitely am, and I’ve mentioned books once or twice (a lot) before in my posts here. To give you a glimpse into the book crazy, I’m currently reading three different novels and have a stack of unread books waiting on my attention when those have been completed. Not only do I read them, but collect them and enjoy showing off my rare or aesthetically appealing finds.

I understand though, it’s not exactly realistic to have a library in an apartment. When I think library, the larger than life room from Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast comes to mind. That’s not going to fit in any apartment I’ve seen. So the alternative is a book nook, which while much smaller, provides an appropriate space for reading and storing books.

Book nooks are precisely what they sound like – small spaces outfitted for cozying up to a good book. You don’t need much space to accomplish the look and feel. In fact, if you have an awkward shaped alcove or a corner that’s unused, it could be perfect for a nook space. The smaller the space, the better because small spaces are much easier to make cozy than large ones. Orient furniture centrally around a comfortable reading chair to create the perfect reading environment. Add an end table and a nice reading lamp with a warm bulb to keep the mood low key and relaxing. Add shelves, trays, or crates to store books on nearby. Hang a picture or several above your chair to tie the whole thing together. Happy reading!

A Fun Crowd-Pleaser Holiday Gift

holiday-gift

I normally don’t advocate expensive gifts because I know firsthand how out of control holiday shopping and spending can get – and it’s a real damper on your finances if you don’t keep a close eye on it. I’m all about handmade, small gifts, which tend to be more meaningful anyway. However, there is one I’ll recommend any day…

I have to admit one of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a Fujifilm Instax camera, which I continuously use and enjoy. It’s a great gift for just about anyone who appreciates the fun and spontaneity of the instant camera (and who maybe is a little tired of taking pictures with a cell phone). Perhaps part of it stems from my early childhood, using my grandparents’ bulky Polaroid and then the disappointment when Polaroid stopped making the cameras and components. It’s always been, and still is somewhat magical taking a picture and then watching it develop before your eyes to see how it turned out. The Instax cameras also have features which allow you to leave the shutter open for an extended time while you take a photograph to get interesting light effects or even take a purposefully double-exposed photo.

It’s a really versatile gift for anyone who’s a bit of a shutterbug or even a younger friend or relative who’s learning about photography or just wants to scrapbook some fun memories!

Here’s the version I have, the Neo Classic (slightly better than the original) on Amazon, $129  

Instax film comes in a variety of frame styles, so you can get the traditional white or opt for something funky like these packs.

 

3 Ways to Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

wrapping-paper

With the great gift-giving season having arrived, all those amazing gifts you’ve bought for friends and family will most likely get wrapped up for optimal surprise-effect at the big event. Wrapping paper from the store is all good and well, but wouldn’t it be fun to do something different this year? Yes, yes it would! So this time try making your own wrapping paper- it can be surprisingly easy even if you’re convinced you don’t have a creative bone in your body.

Stamped Wrapping Paper Last year I made wrapping paper from plain brown rolls of “kraft” paper, a rubber stamp, and a black ink pad. It was amazingly simple, cheap, and looked awesome! If you go to a craft store like Michael’s or Jo Ann’s, they almost always have both stamps and stamp pads in the dollar section. You can choose a design and a color for the ink to suit your individual color scheme.

Marbled wrapping paper Marbled paper has been around for ages. It used to be used on the insides of books and each sheet was beautifully unique. With a few supplies you can make gorgeous marbled paper. It’s not as easy as the stamped paper, but the result is gorgeous and well worth the effort! Use this tutorial here to DIY some marbled wrapping paper.

Printable wrapping paper Ok, if you really want to take the easy way out and source your designs from the internet, print them, and be done with it, it can be done. The future is now!- check out these 18 printable wrapping paper designs you can generate just using the printer at your desk.

Giving Gifts that Pay it Forward

gift

I’m a little bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the holiday shopping extravaganza that happens every year. I get bummed out over people spending oodles of cash on things for the sake of giving somebody “something”, whether or not that person wants or needs it, but because we feel socially obligated to. I know you’re letting out an audible groan at my Grinchiness right now, but I’ve given it some more thought and pose the question – If you must buy gifts, why not buy gifts from companies who do something charitable in return?

Out of Print is a company which provides literature lovers with the necessaries to outwardly express their favorite novels and authors. They sell shirts, socks, accessories for the home, and more. Proceeds from their sales go toward literacy programs and book donations to children in need.

My Out of Print pick, West Egg (The Great Gatsby) Pennant for the apartment

 

Hand in Hand Soap not only makes and sells soap, but donates a bar for every bar sold. The company works with My Neighbor’s Children charity group to donate soap to people in areas where sanitation is an issue. The charity primarily focuses on helping children in Haiti.

My Hand in Hand Soap pick, a face tonic and hand salve (in jasmine for me) gift set sounds amazing!

 

Twice as Warm creates quality made in the US winter accessories (hats, scarves, gloves) and donates one to a local shelter with each purchase. Twice as Warm designs are classic and simple and the products are great for gift giving.

My Twice as Warm pick, a chunky knit black marled infinity scarf that looks pretty darn cozy and cute.

 

The Benefits of Tea Tree Oil

tea-tree-oil

If you’re unfamiliar with tea tree oil, it’s an essential oil made from the tea tree which grows in Australia. While technically tea tree oil is not meant to be ingested and is considered toxic if ingested, it has amazing properties when a diluted amount is applied to the skin. It has natural antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, which can help clear up some skin conditions. This makes it a great alternative to harsh chemical treatments.

One of the things tea tree helps dramatically reduce is acne. Diluted tea tree oil (never full strength!) can be applied directly to an affected area to clear up breakouts. The essential oil can also help alleviate fungal infections over a course of time. It can be used to treat swelling from insect bites and other minor afflictions on the skin. The list of things it can be used for is very impressive.

I like to mix a drop of tea tree oil with my facial cleanser every time I wash my face to help keep my skin clear and breakout-free. You can also mix a drop or two with your body wash if you want. Many skin care products are already made with some tea tree oil in them, so check the ingredients next time you go shopping. Tea tree oil is somewhat expensive, but a little bottle will go a long way! A great place to buy it is TJ Maxx or Marshall’s, which has it discounted a dollar or two. You can find out more about tea tree oil and the facts around it as a home remedy on WebMD here.

A Smart Tip for Your Laundry Room

socks

Do you have a laundry room? I can safely say I wish everyone in this world some variety of laundry facility of their own, even though that’s silly and unrealistic. Having your own washer and dryer, or at the very least a washer is an absolute godsend. Never again do I want to traipse to the laundromat and shell out $3 a load just to wash my clothes. I know, I know, it’s much worse than that many places.

I stumbled across a very simple, but startlingly brilliant laundry room tip in my online perusing recently. This whole tip starts with the idea of a sock- just one sock. That’s the problem, isn’t it? Socks get separated and float around in space and time wandering aimlessly until their mates are found, or so it seems. It never fails that you spot one in a particular location and go looking for the other, only to find that once you’ve located the second sock, the first one has mysteriously vanished (presumably into a black hole for lonely socks – it really is the only plausible explanation).

So, the brilliant tip in all actuality is this: Keep a container in your laundry room labeled “Lost Socks” to organize the whole situation. Maybe this isn’t news, but it’s the first I’ve seen of it and I find it ingenious (the idea came from the lovely Erin Hiemstra of apartment34.com). If you don’t have a laundry room, you can still keep the solo sock basket around somewhere else such as in a discreet place like under the bed or in a bathroom cabinet. Keep tabs on those loner socks and corral them all in one place for easier pairing!

A Fast Way to Give Your Furniture Some Oomph

door-knocker

There are a lot of ways to improve on cheap or less-than-desirable furniture as proved by the IKEA hacks website and numerous other blogs dedicated to hacking junky furniture for your apartment. So with that being said, there are a million ways to make an old chest of drawers shine again. A fresh coat of paint never did anything any harm, but sometimes paint just isn’t quite enough.

Time and time again when I’m shopping at places like Anthropologie, I see the hardware bin and realize that there’s a relatively simple way to spice things up with minimal effort. They sell gorgeous decorative knobs and drawer pulls that make a huge difference in a cabinet or piece of furniture’s overall appeal. Obviously this isn’t something you would want to do with every piece of furniture in your apartment, but it works better when choosing pieces that you want to create more of a statement and highlight the room with.

Here are some really nice bits of decorative hardware that I fancied in particular

Ocean Crater Knob by Anthropologie, $10 each

Creative Coop Feather Pull in Gold from Amazon, $10 each

Dimpled Globe Knob by Anthropologie, $8 each

Leather and Brass Drawer Pull from Target, $12 each

To Share or Not To Share

remote

Roommates are great for keeping you company and sharing fun moments with. Better yet, roommates are also awesome because you get to split all those nasty bills every month – rent, utilities, etc. When you’re on a budget, it’s practically a lifesaver, making life a little bit easier on you and your wallet. Especially as a student, with the addition of books and supplies for classes and fewer hours leftover to hold a regular job, being able to split your financial responsibility in half is key. But the question here is, where do you draw the line on sharing? What kinds of things are best left independently handled?

Good for sharing

Rent – This one is obvious. And unless one of you has a significantly bigger room than the other, chances are this is the easiest and simplest split. No surprises every month since the bill should always be the same.

Utilities – You may have one person who uses the electricity more than yourself or other roommates, but there is almost no way to determine a more accurate split. So, keeping utilities split evenly is the best and some simple mediation can help alleviate utility-usurpers.

Toilet paper / paper towels – There still may be one roommate who uses more than others, but if you rotate responsibility for household paper products each month and agree on a quantity and brand (to prevent any cheapskating!) this is a pretty good responsibility to share.

 

Not quite so good for sharing

Groceries – Only share food if you want to wonder who drank all the milk you bought or why you don’t have any eggs left all of a sudden. Don’t even bother trying this one because sharing groceries can be a complete disaster. Better to agree to keep all your things on one side of the fridge or label containers than risk the stress of not having your lunch when you need it.

Furniture purchases – It might make monetary sense at the time if you all chip in on some furniture, but watch out because this is not a wise long-term move. If you think a breakup is messy, wait until you have to figure out who gets the couch when you all move out.

The TV – Depending on how many people are in your apartment and how much TV you watch, it may be worth investing in an inexpensive small TV to keep in your room. Communal TV’s are nice, but spark controversy if your apartment isn’t a completely harmonious haven. Thankfully, most of us crazy Millennials watch Netflix on our laptops now anyway…thank you, technology!

Gaming Console – It’s great if you’re the one without a console, but if you’re the owner it can be nerve racking when someone accidentally saves over your hours worth of saved gaming data. If you value your files, probably best to not share that one.